Phish Tour 2021 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny: Chula Vista

The show at North Island Credit Union (NICU) Amphitheatre featured a 17-minute "NICU" and multiple teases of the song.

By Jeffrey Greenblatt Oct 24, 2021 9:57 am PDT

On Saturday, Phish continued Fall Tour 2021 at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, California, returning to the 20,500-seat venue for the first time since 2016. The quartet delivered a memorable night highlighted by expansive takes on the fitting “NICU” and “Tube” in the first frame and a must-hear version of “Piper” in the back half of the night, along with multiple teases back to “NICU” throughout the evening.

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The Vermont-bred band wasted no time getting things going in tapping one of their most beloved 1.0 classics – “Fluffhead” – to open. The foursome deftly worked their way through the multi-section prog rocker with tactical precision highlighted by Page McConnell‘s keyboard work. As they made their way out of the “Arrival” section of the tune, guitarist Trey Anastasio took charge leading the band into a brief blissful jam that as it unfolded was first highlighted by wah tones and McConnell’s array of keyboards. Before things got too deep, Anastasio brought the first Type II “Fluffhead” since 1999 back as they slowly worked their way into “NICU,” which again gave Page time to shine as Trey shouted out to “Play it, Leo. Play it, baby!”

The four-piece seemed invested in coloring outside the lines early on as “NICU” transitioned into another early improv that mixed Calypso and swampy sounds before melting into ethereal soundscapes. Anastasio would eventually begin to work his way towards the familiar “NICU” theme as the rest of the band still ambled around him eventually leading Trey back into the group-think jam that they weren’t ready to detach from. With the stage bathed in hues of blue and purple things got quiet, weird and spacey before Trey again tried and pull things back to “NICU.”


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Bassist Mike Gordon locked in with Anastasio towards the end of the longest “NICU” in the song’s 29-year history as the pair teased the tune and toyed with a call and response on it. The “Chula Vista NICU,” or “NICU NICU,” eventually got really hushed and slow as it segued into the ultra-rarity “Bye Bye Foot.” The Jon Fishman-sung, Velvet Underground-inspired ballad was dusted off for the first time since November 29, 2019 – a span of 43 shows – and for just the second time since 1997.

“Tube” immediately brought the energy back up with the quartet once again diving straight into a swampy jam early on as they blew past the opening stanza of the song. Fishman kept a steady driving drumbeat as Anastasio once again teased “NICU” while settling into a groovy jam that gave way into a deep space-rock anchored by McConnell utilizing his Clavinet. “NICU” would continue to be teased within the interstellar journey that built to a gravity-defying peak before being brought back to Earth and parachuting into the closing section, which was punctuated with another call back to “NICU.”

Next, Phish looked to another of their multi-section opuses, “Slave To The Traffic Light,” with the old school workhorse featuring a beautiful meditative jam within. Without really stopping, Anastasio offered some scratchy guitar licks before shouting out for “Slow Llama,” which devolved into a patient, slinking, funky improv. Phish then looked to the feel-good rocker “Rise/Come Together,” which also included a tease of “NICU” to close out the opening stanza in Southern California.

Read on after The Skinny for the rest of the recap and more.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

The Venue

North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre [See upcoming shows]

20,500

5 shows
09/18/1999, 10/04/2000, 07/08/2003, 10/25/2014, 07/23/2016

The Music

7 songs / 8:08 pm to 9:22 pm (74 minutes)

8 songs / 9:56 pm to 11:30 pm (94 minutes)

15 songs
15 originals / 0 covers

1999

11 [Gap chart]

None

Fluffhead, NICU, Bye Bye Foot, Llama, Rise/Come Together, No Men In No Man's Land, Joy, First Tube

Bye Bye Foot LTP 11/29/2019 (43 Show Gap)

Fluffhead, Piper 17:55

Junta - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Billy Breathes - 1, Farmhouse - 3, Undermind - 1, Joy - 1, Big Boat - 1, Misc. - 6

The Rest

62° and Cloudy at Showtime

Koa 4

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Anastasio and company tapped “No Men In No Man’s Land” to open the second set and immediately settled in on a groove anchored by Trey. The patient backing of Gordon, Fishman and McConnell gave Anastasio the opportunity to dig in as they eventually settled into darker cosmic themes. McConnell’s synth work was the catalyst as they explored the depths of outer space sounds. Nearing the 17-minute mark, the guitarist pull the reigns back in as they segued into “Free.”

The band toyed with slow and steady funk motifs as they went deep on the Billy Breathes track. After another call back to “NICU” from Anastasio, Phish turned to a stretch of delicate and reflective jamming not in a rush to get anywhere in particular before the familiar strains of “Free” reemerged. Last night’s “Free” was the longest version in nearly 26 years and the second longest ever.

After just two songs and nearly 35 minutes heavy on improv to open the second set, the breather, ballad slot went to “Joy” bringing with it a burst of positivity. “Sand” then welcomed a mellow yet danceable groove that dissolved into “Piper.” The Farmhouse track quickly fell into a heavy dose of high-energy rock guitar riffing from Anastasio. The band put the pedal to the metal over a long sustained note from Trey that shifted the entire tone of the frame as Phish dove into almost YES-esque baroque-prog sounds thanks to McConnell’s deep thunderous tones.

Anastasio unleashed a series of fretboard fireworks as Fishman pounded away on his drum kit. This must-hear version of “Piper” meshed deep swirling psychedelia with guitar heroics and elements of acid jazz and dark avant-rock. Pushing toward 18 minutes and completely collapsing into a puddle of gooey acid-drenched madness, Trey pulled them out with “Scents And Subtle Sounds.” Trey seemingly wasn’t done with “NICU” as he again included elements of it within the high-octane “SS&S” jam.

Anastasio looked to his solo catalog to kick off their two-song encore with the reflective and tender tune “Lonely Trip.” Trey then thanked the crowd and turned to his bandmates for a little show-closing fun by calling back to the “NICU” theme for the night. “Mike Gordon, I see you. Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell, I see you,” the guitarist said with Page responding “and I see you” to Trey. The foursome then closed out their evening in SoCal with the fiery instrumental rocker “First Tube.”

Phish Fall Tour 2021 moves on to The Forum tonight in Inglewood, California. Head to LivePhish.com to purchase a livestream.

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